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As a physician, Carolyn volunteered in clinics serving people in the workforce who may be experiencing homelessness or poverty and are uninsured. Through her work, she witnessed the cruelty of cash bail and pretrial incarceration.

The cycle of poverty and incarceration is a vicious one. The homelessness crisis in the United States is worsened by the criminalization of poverty and homelessness. People with histories of incarceration are more likely to experience homelessness and people experiencing homelessness or poverty are 11 times more likely to be incarcerated than the general population.

Because the criminal justice system fails to consider the extreme conditions people experiencing homelessness or poverty are forced to endure to survive, they are often arrested for such things as loitering or sleeping on public property. Once incarcerated, a severe lack of resources makes it nearly impossible to escape a legal system that disadvantages them in every way.

“Through the years, I saw cases where minor events set off a cascade of destruction in a person’s life, leading to unemployment and housing loss. It was amazing to me how many people were put into or kept in poverty by one mistake that started an avalanche for them.”

Working at the clinic, Carolyn became all too familiar with the destructive cycle. “People may be arrested for minor things that may or may not have been their fault. Working with people experiencing homelessness or poverty, I have seen people who have been charged with committing things like petty theft because they couldn’t afford simple items such as diapers or food for their families. If someone with marginal finances is arrested, even if they are innocent, they cannot afford bail or the fines and fees of being arrested. They get stuck in jail, which may lead to a loss of their job. Many of my clients in this position would often agree to a plea bargain as the only way to avoid staying in jail, and that can stay with them the rest of their life and keep them in a cycle of poverty.”

Like Carolyn, many Bail Project supporters come to us through personal experiences. The cruel cash bail system is still widely misunderstood. Still, even without direct involvement with the criminal justice system, cash bail is pervasive enough to negatively impact nearly every community.

“I support The Bail Project because they are making a difference for people caught in the unfair cash bail system, allowing them to continue to lead lives as productive citizens and preventing further poverty and homelessness.”

Our supporters make it possible to secure freedom for thousands of Americans experiencing poverty yearly. You can join Carolyn in supporting The Bail Project’s mission to create a more just and equitable pretrial system and help us put an end to the criminalization of poverty with a donation of any amount today.

Have questions about our Freedom Funders monthly donor community, or are you interested in other ways to support The Bail Project? Please contact our development team.

Thank you for reading this article and engaging with our work. Supporters like you are the backbone of our organization and how we are able to continue working towards our mission of creating a fairer system while paying bail for those in need for free. If you found value in this article, please consider donating to help sustain our work today.

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Development Manager

Meghan Hamilton

Meghan joined The Bail Project as Individual Giving Coordinator in 2021, where she oversees The Bail Project's Freedom Funder monthly giving program, donor communications and engagement, and fundraising campaigns. Before joining The Bail Project, she was the Individual Giving Specialist at Rewire News Group, where she oversaw individual giving programs. She has spent over ten years in nonprofit development and communications for organizations including the American Humanist Association, Fresh Start Project DC, and volunteering her skills to her local homeless shelter and abortion fund. She was also a regular contributing author to The Humanist from 2012-2018. She received her B.A. in history from the University of Maryland and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE).